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IBM's Watson helps military members go back to civilian life

Big Blue's 'Jeopardy'-winning computer now comes in the form of an app that uses its technical know-how to assist military personnel in transitioning to life back home.

A Military member using IBM's Watson app. USAA

IBM's Watson became famous for answering random questions on the TV game show -- and now, using that same skill-set, the computer is answering questions from military personnel about what it's like to move from active duty back to civilian life.

IBM announced Wednesday that it partnered with USAA to bring military members an app to help with the transition out of service. This is the first time Watson is being used as a consumer app.

"Putting Watson into the hands of consumers is a critical milestone toward improving how we work and live," IBM Watson Group senior vice president Mike Rhodin said in a statement emailed to CNET. "We believe this new service can help men and women who served their country gain timely and relevant insights into the steps they need to successfully move to civilian life."

The app lets transitioning military personnel ask Watson questions about civilian life, such as what benefits are offered, what does insurance cover, how does the GI Bill work, and even how to get a job or buy a new home. To answer these questions, the app taps into Watson's cognitive intellect, which has culled data from more than 3,000 documents on military transitions.

The move to civilian life can be challenging for military personnel -- they have often centered their entire lives on active duty. Roughly 155,000 people transition from military to civilian life every year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Since its debut on "Jeopardy," Watson brought its supercomputing prowess to a variety of industries, including the financial services sector, retail companies, health care organizations, and even gourmet cooking. The machine has the ability to comb through vast amounts of information to come up with answers and insights, so it makes sense that it would also be helpful for military transitions.